The Sobey Art Foundation and the National Gallery of Canada have announced that they will not name a single winner of the prestigious $100,000 CAD Sobey Art Award, the country’s largest contemporary art prize. Instead of staging its prize exhibition, awarding artist residencies, and hosting its annual gala, the award program will divert its $625,000 CAD in funds to the artists selected for the prize’s longlist.
According to National Gallery director Sasha Suda, the institutions opted to change the prize structure to help more artists preserve their contemporary art practice during the global health crisis. Rather than choose one artist to receive the grand prize, which recognizes artists under the age of forty, and administer $25,000 CAD to the four finalists, organizers will present all twenty-five of the longlisted artists with $25,000 CAD.
“We are so proud to be able to celebrate the work of these twenty-five artists whose art deserves this recognition,” said Rob Sobey, chair of the Sobey Art Foundation. “The extraordinary circumstances provoked by the Covid-19 pandemic will have a profound impact on the livelihoods and practices of artists across Canada and around the world. As we all adjust to the changes in our every-day lives, we recognize how artists sustain us and give us hope. Our sincere wish is that each of this year’s longlist artists will have some additional support to continue to do so.”
Representing five different Canadian regions—the West Coast and Yukon, the Prairies and the North, Ontario, Quebec, and the Atlantic Provinces—the longlisted artists were pulled from the largest pool of prize nominees to date. The award jury said in a statement that it welcomed the award committee’s decision to alter the award process. “Selecting among so many candidates of exceptional quality was no simple task, but in working through an array of considerations, our conversations led us to recognize artists at different moments in their careers whose works we feel invigorate, innovate, and reframe wide-spanning areas of practice and discourse,” the jury said.